A visit to the vineyards of Italy
The Road Trip
After five days of craziness in Verona, we were happy to head north to the photogenic Dolomite mountains, stopping at two Trentino cellars, then pushing east to Friuli for tastings at our two most enigmatic wineries. Next, we drove southwest to Veneto for a tour of our biodynamic winery, Tasi, before heading south to the “boot” of Italy through Emilia-romagna and into the Marche region.
From the Montepulciano vines of Marche, we moved to the Sagrantino vines of Umbria in central Italy, where we got to learn about the research on polyphenols (a chemical compound found to have health benefits) in Sagrantino grapes, and why winemaker Cesarini Sartori is now making juice and jam from this “heart-healthy” grape.
There wasn’t much time for sightseeing, but we did manage a quick trip to the old town of Assisi’s 13th-century church, before heading further west and then north to Tuscany and Piedmont. We ended our grand tour drinking “noble” wines and taking in the impressive scenery in Lombardy.
What stands out above everything on a trip like this – even beyond the beautiful vino – is the humility and passion of the winemakers. As the estates we work with are small-production and family-run, you’ll find husbands and wives, daughters and sons, all doing their part to make their dreams a reality. They epitomise the expression that wine is “bottled poetry”, with their love of endemic vines and personal dedication to their craft; you’ll find them down in the vineyards checking the new buds, cleaning equipment in the cellars, checking samples from the barrels, and designing the logos and labels. This dedication means little time for the traditional forms of marketing, which is why we love telling stories on their behalf – and it’s an honour and a pleasure to do so.
• Hearing about Fiorentino Pojer’s secretive grappamaking process, which pre- dates the Pojer & Sandri winemaking cellar in the Trentino-alto Adige region. • A visit to the half-finished underground cellar of winemaker Damijan Podversic and his daughter Tamara, who showed us the special soil (and rocks) that gives their orange wine its unique character. • Seeing winemaker Edi Kante’s personal artwork (also used on his bottle labels) displayed on the walls of his cave-like cellar in Friuli. • Stopping to see the iron in the soil and Nebbiolo grape buds in the Gattinara vineyards at Paride Iaretti, while en route to a panoramic viewpoint overlooking the surrounding volcanic hills; a tasting in the cellar to compare different vintages developing in the barrels followed. • Our walk up the sweeping path to the Castello di Cigognola, a winery situated at a historic castle inaugurated in 1212 ( the brand’s award- winning Barbera wine is named Dodici Dodici, or “twelve twelve”), and trying the vineyard’s new Per Papa wine, dedicated to the winery patriarch who recently passed away; the bottle’s label features two angels seen in the castle’s paintings.
Lunch at Pravis winery
Castello di Cigognola
Winemaker Claudio Mariotto ages Timorasso grape skins in an old-fashioned clay amphora
Cleaning cellar equipment at Pravis winery
Biodynamic prosecco at Tasi
Pojer & Sandri